SNP Lead Resilient Despite Sturgeon’s Departure and Financial Probe
New polling conducted on behalf of True North indicates that support for the SNP remains robust despite the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon and ongoing police investigation into the party’s finances. While down -2 points since Humza Yousaf’s appointment as First Minister, our Westminster voting intention poll shows the SNP remain poised to be the largest party in Scotland with 38%. The SNP’s lead over Labour is reduced (-1) but still strong at +7. Both the Liberal Democrats (+2) and Conservatives (+1) made small gains.
Although support for the SNP is strong among younger respondents and Remain voters (44%), the party has been losing ground over time with independence supporters. Just 64% of 2014 Yes voters expressed the intention to vote for the SNP in the next general election, down from 75% in 2019. This trend is consistent with our previous voting intention polling, where the SNP received 67% of 2014 Yes voters. Labour appear to be increasingly palatable with supporters of independence, collecting 20% of 2014 Yes voters in this poll and 19% in last month’s poll. These inroads with Yes voters, coupled with the fact Labour is the most popular party with No voters (41%), indicate the party is developing a broader electoral base. How much devolution Labour is prepared to commit to ahead of next year’s general election could have significant implications.
Labour is the strongest unionist party when it comes to Holyrood constituency voting intention, with their vote share steady at 30%. Of the major parties, Labour retained more of their 2021 vote than any other party. Despite a -3 point decline, the SNP hold a robust +9 point lead over Labour in Holyrood voting intention. As with Westminster voting intention, however, the SNP received only 65% of Yes voters while 19% opted for Labour.
While the SNP’s vote share holds up well across the board, the party’s narrowest lead is in the list vote where it claims 32% of the vote to Labour’s 26%.
On independence, we see some narrowing to 52% No (-1) and 48% Yes (+1). Generational disparities on the question of independence are clear, with 78% of 16-24 year olds supporting Yes compared to just 26% of those aged over 65. Although 79% of those who voted SNP in 2019 say they would vote Yes in a referendum, that support for Yes sits at 48% while the SNPs vote share is declining indicates the party has lost a portion of independence voters. So while the SNP have demonstrated their vote share has a high floor given the context of the ongoing investigation, we might have expected stronger support with Yes sitting on 48%.
While the consequences of the police investigation into the SNP’s finances appear muted in our voting intention figures, 41% say it makes them less likely to vote for the SNP. Of 2019 SNP voters, 30% say the investigation makes them less likely to vote for the party again. Labour appears to be the biggest beneficiaries, with 32% reporting it makes them more likely to vote for Anas Sarwar’s party.
A similar trend is evident regarding responses to Sturgeon’s resignation as First Minister. Just 21% say her resignation makes them more likely to vote SNP and 32% report it making them less likely. Again, Labour appears to have capitalised on Sturgeon’s resignation as 33% say it makes them more likely to vote for the party, compared to just 16% for less likely.
At -13, First Minister Humza Yousaf’s net favourability rating lags behind the SNP’s Westmister leader Stepehen Flynn (-8). Only 45% of 2019 SNP voters think favourably of Yousaf, and he scores poorly with those aged 65+ (-37) and leave voters (-55). The First Minister will be looking to improve his favourability among Remainers, which while positive sits at only +2. Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar is +5 overall, performing well with higher income and higher educated respondents. Sarwar is popular with No voters (+9), but also neutral to Yes voters (0). This is similar to Keir Starmer, whose overall rating of +2 falls to only -3 among SNP voters. Unionists may be coalescing around Labour due to dissatisfaction with the Conservatives, with Sunak (-21) and Ross (-20) holding negative ratings among both Yes and No voters, as well as both Leave and Remain voters.
Many have speculated about the impact Sturgeon’s resignation and the police investigation will have on the SNPs electoral position. We see evidence of dissatisfaction, and many report it making them less likely to vote SNP, yet this has not translated into collapsing support in voting intention polls. While reduced, the SNP maintains its lead across Westminster and Holyrood polling. Labour’s inroads with Yes voters, alongside being the strongest unionist party, present a challenge to Humza Yousaf’s party. That said, to retain a lead given the context of the past two months indicates the SNP vote is sticky; their polling position has worsened, but it seems the party has a high electoral floor.
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Survation conducted an online poll of 1,009 adults aged 16+ in Scotland on behalf of True North. Fieldwork was conducted between 27th April - 3rd May 2023. Tables are available here.
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